Journal Discussed – Identity, Disguises, and Reputation

In most MMOs we play the hero, coming into town to solve everyone’s problems. From the rats in the basement to the fact most of the town folk have been slaughtered by some great evil. What if we do not want to play the good guy? What if we want to be the great evil that is slaughtering the town folk? Hey, maybe we were the ones that let the rats in! Living that sort of evil life is not great for your reputations. So what if we could live a double life? Hide our true identity, commit crimes in another’s name, even frame our nemesis. In Chronicles of Elyria that is possible and if you haven’t read all about identity, disguises, and reputation then go to the Journal Abridged. If you want a bit more head below!

Jeromy ‘Caspian’ Walsh was in the hot seat again answering questions that our lovely host BicycleWalrus of DM21 Gaming had gathered from the forums. You can watch the video in full here, or if you are a more text based kinda person then Maygus and Xilana have got you covered with their transcript over here. Remember to join the community and keep an eye on the forums for new Q&A threads so you can get your questions answered. All sorts of topics were covered but there were a lot of great information shared about identity, disguises, and reputation that you certainly need to know so lets jump in. Oh and lets go in reverse order to mix it up!

Reputation

Fame and reputation are concepts that are often in MMOs, but are not normally flexible. As you complete a task in the game, NPCs will often give canned lines associated with its completion next time you are in town. Your fame grows as your level grows. It is not really a choice you make as a character, you just get more famous and get a better reputation. In Chronicles of Elyria both of those traits are a choice. You get to choose what sort of actions you take, or at least let people know you have taken. Those actions can be good or bad, out in the public eye or hidden in the shadows. You can make yourself the most infamous criminal, or the helpful neighbour only known to those him his street.

One thing that I wondered about the system was how this fame and reputation would be communicated in game. I was worried about immersion, the mechanics feeling too forced, and everything a little bit metric based – oh look my fame is at 4. Well why on earth did I worry:

They are purely based on player and NPC interaction. So there is no indication of how famous you are or what your reputation is. However, if you talk to other players and they immediately try and kill to you then you can probably guess you have a bad reputation. … It is similar to our world no one walks around with a little gauge over their head; this is a nice guy, this is a bad guy, this is a legendary character!

Unsurprisingly the Developers have thought about the systems they are implementing. They are there to add to the game, to the experience, not get in the way of it. However, that does bring in player skill. Now with a game that focuses on combining player skill and character skill that shouldn’t be a problem, and it isn’t. I am just being selfish. I am awful with names! I am going to have to get to know peoples name, and actually talk to NPCs and players about other people… and then remember it! It isn’t going to happen, and I will get scammed by that same dodgy dealer more than once.

Disguises

The main thing I thought was made clear in the question and answer session what the distinction between identities and disguises. An identity does not need a disguise. Disguises are there to strengthen your different aliases, to make it more likely to fool people. Especially people who you want to interact with using more than one identity because they are fast going to cotton on if you just keep using a different name!

You don’t need a disguise to have multiple identities, it would just be a fake ID effectively. If you were to go some place and provide a fake ID, you’re not putting a disguise on, you’re just claiming to be somebody else, and present a different ID also looking the exact same then it’s more likely someone is going to recognise you from before.

Which makes sense. Though interestingly you do not need to have different identities to use a disguise. Caspian confirmed on the IRC chat that you could use a disguise and still be yourself. Not only does it provide a quick way to change your characters look, it can be used in other way:

Maybe you come into town wearing one disguise, don’t introduce yourself, and then come back later in a different one. Nobody, even those basing identity on appearance, would ever assume those were the same person.

The other part that was interesting was how much will player skill come into identifying if the person in front of you is wearing a disguise. Vucub asked if he knew his friend didn’t have a scar and the person introducing themselves as the same name clearly had one could he as the player call them out? Which was a really interesting question and one that the developers are working on.

Like everything we want the game to be a combination of character skill and player skill, and anytime that it’s clear to the player that something is wrong it breaks immersion so what we really want it to be like is that the player might not be able to tell, but the character might have a little bit more information. Not the other way around. … At this point the answer is no, but it’s one of things we’re aware of that create a distraction and we’re going to see what we can do to fix that.

Looks like we will have to see with that one if a solution is found, or if it is felt to be something that isn’t needed as a core mechanic. Luckily for me as well as not being able to remember names I can not remember faces!

Identities

This is the big one for me. This was the part of the design journal where one sentence made me stop, blink, and say “Oh goodness.” and not in the most positive way. Other people can steal your identity, it doesn’t sound like an easy process but it is doable. That doesn’t seem too bad, until they commit crimes using your identity and you are the one facing jail. Facing jail, reduced spirit, shorter life, and therefore a bigger real life cash outlay… ouch is not quite the word. So what did the Developers have to say bout the issue:

I feel like it should be easier to prove someone’s innocence than it is prove someone’s guilt, that innocent until proven guilty mentality. So we want to do a little bit more with the system, and I am just not yet sure what that is. The idea should be if you are accused of a crime you have an incentive to find the evidence, either yourself or have people help you get the evidence, but it should be a relatively straight forward process for someone who has skills in doing so to do that.

Basically they have part of an answer and they know where they are heading, they just haven’t quite got it all sorted. Fair enough, this game is in development and it is nice that they do not pretend to have all the answers. I much prefer getting a “we don’t know” then “this is what you want to hear, it isn’t planned, but you want it so I will say it”. I really do hope that people will get a good shot at clearing the name as, while there are some really interesting mechanics linked with taking over someone’s identity if those start to cost the other player real cash a lot of the fun is going to go pretty darn fast.

What we got with the identity, disguises, and reputation Developer Journal was a whole lot of interesting. It is, as with everything else we have heard about the game, above all other things versatile. There is not one path through this game, there are not even 50 paths through this game. The amount of choices, flexibility, and imagination that a player can put into their characters is almost overwhelming. But in a good way! We haven’t even heard about all the systems yet, so roll on Monday for hopefully another Developer Journal.

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